Clarksville, Ark.-The 2005 University of the Ozarks men's soccer team made the American Southwest Conference playoffs for a league-record sixth consecutive season and made the championship match for the fourth time while posting their sixth straight winning season.
Defense was the key to Ozarks’ successful season as they led the league with 11 shutouts, a statistic that tied a single-season conference record. Ozarks also topped the league in lowest goals against average (.82). The 2005 team set single-season school records in fewest goals allowed (19), lowest goals against average and shutouts. ????? "Defense wins championships," said head coach Dave De Hart. "I’ve always believed that. If you don’t give up a goal, the worst you will do is tie. And, we are a prime example of that. I’m proud of the defense and proud of the entire team. Everybody played hard. Goalkeeper Brian Sarber coming in was a big factor in that. Lars Nyberg was steady and the other guys did a great job as well. You always start with the defense and go from there." ????? The Eagles also faired well offensively. They led the conference in points (132), goals (46) and assists (40). Despite the favorable statistics, the Eagles had an unusual amount of close matches. ????? "We had so many games where we sort of hung on," said De Hart, who owns a 90-46-10 record in seven seasons at Ozarks. "If you put things in perspective, it was a difficult and stressful year. We had six overtime games, with five of those reaching double overtime. We also had a shootout in the playoffs. I think the players did an outstanding job adjusting to the pressure-filled situations. They are the ones that deserve the credit." ????? The ASC playoffs provided another tight contest as Austin College took the Eagles into a shootout, but Sarber proved his All-Conference worth with a solid performance. ????? "It doesn’t happen very often that the keeper would save the first three and we would win 3-0 on a shootout," said De Hart. "I felt like we had a better chance when we went to a shootout. We weren’t scoring any goals in the regular flow of play. We weren’t creating very much. I felt fortunate to win. I think Austin College out played us. ????? "To be in the tournament six consecutive years and be in the final for four years is a great accomplishment," said De Hart. "We were ranked number six in the preseason. So, maybe in hindsight, our accomplishment of getting to the finals and having only four losses on the season is pretty good." ????? Ozarks found itself playing a number of players throughout the season due to injuries. ????? "This year was frustrating because we didn’t have the same team at the end of the season as we had at the beginning of the season," said De Hart. "The guys did a great job of playing out of position and making different things work and making different tactics work .The second half of the season we just weren’t really able to create very many goals. You build a goal. And we weren’t able to do that and that’s what came back and got us in the end." ????? Ozarks does have some positions to fill for the 2006 season since they lose five seniors, three of which were full-time starters. ????? "We have some spots that need to be filled," said De Hart. "We have some spots that need to be changed. We will recruit to try to bring in the best players we can to fill those spots. Hopefully, we can get to the level of winning a championship again. I don’t like finishing second. We have some building to do. I’m constantly asked how I get players here. That’s a lack of knowledge on their part of what our university offers. Some of the programs in the conference think we are just lucky. At some point we are just not lucky, we have a good men’s soccer program and we have a good quality group of athletes here. We have a group of athletes that should be respected."